Reporting from the Ground in Marrakech
By Craig Ebert, President of the Climate Action Reserve
Greetings from COP22 in Marrakech! The Climate Action Reserve is honored to once again have the opportunity to host a delegation to COP. We kicked off our delegation with an opening reception jointly hosted with The Climate Registry, The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, Edison Electric Institute, and Natural Resources Defense Council. It included uplifting remarks by several speakers, including Minister Glen Murray of Ontario and Secretary Matt Rodriquez of California. The ministerial delegations have begun arriving and there is much work to be done.
With the Paris Agreement coming into force on November 4, this COP is also the first Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1). The past month has brought an unprecedented amount of progress on the international climate change front:
· Paris Agreement coming into effect
· Montreal Protocol signatories agreeing to phaseout HFCs
· ICAO agreeing to begin reducing its emissions starting in 2021.
Normally, these actions would be much cause for celebration, but did you hear that the US had an election? That news is dominating a lot of the discussions. After the initial shock, many parties are turning to the tough business of what comes next for the international community. If you have not seen it, one place to start is the announcement by California legislative leaders reaffirming the state’s commitment to “historic diversity, scientific advancement, economic output, and the sense of global responsibility.”
While questions remain on the impact of Trump’s victory on national and international climate policies, sober minds are now turning to the realities of how to handle the new environment. It is important to realize this is not the first time global climate action has faced headwinds. The environmental community found itself in similar situations with the elections of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. But we soldiered on and I can attest that the determination is great to move forward with implementation of Paris.
There remains much work to be done about setting the rules of the game, even how quickly they should be set. Some parties argue for full definition by 2018 to ensure progress; others argue that it may be appropriate to have a sliding schedule of actions so that the “less enthusiastic” parties do not feel forced out of the negotiations if matters move too quickly. Marrakech will not decide this matter — no one is expecting major advances here largely because the Paris Agreement only came into force nine days ago. There is a lot of optimism for progressing on the rules here, but don’t expect any banner headlines.
A C2ES event today discussed the options available to a Trump Administration if it decides to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The Agreement itself does not allow quick action. A country must wait three years (until November 4, 2019) to even announce its intent to withdraw, and then there is a one year waiting period before its withdrawal will take effect. There is a more draconian option — Trump could announce that the US is withdrawing from the UNFCCC itself. It is not clear whether any President can unilaterally take such action without Senate consent since that is a treaty obligation. It is also important to remember that the Senate originally ratified the treaty unanimously, so presumably even members of the Republican Party would not pursue a course of completely halting discussions with the rest of the world and risking the pariah status that would inevitably follow.
Many people here in Marrakech, including many business interests, are speculating that Trump may chart an entirely different course if and when he can be convinced of the jobs and competitiveness benefits of supporting clean technologies. The US DOE will be releasing a report in about one month that highlights the positive economic impact of clean energy investments. It is a positive story that California has been telling far and wide for some time. It is too early to tell exactly where a Trump Administration will go, but the world community intends to push forward, including California and our brethren to the north (i.e., Ontario and Quebec). The risks are too great to do otherwise.
If you are in Marrakech, you are invited to join us at our two side events. The first is Wednesday in the IETA pavilion on no/low carbon transportation strategies and the second is our official UNFCCC event on Thursday on subnational (or is that Supre-National) actions on climate in North America.